SPACE FLiK: The Corrector’s Cut

Although I’ve worked in animation since 1982 and loved the medium my whole life, there was only one time that I made an animated project on my own (apart from flip-books). At the age of 15/16, my obsessions were WARNER Bros CARTOONSSTAR WARS and MAD Magazine, influences clearly seen in the crudely made parody finished over a year later. In 2014 I found the spool of super-8 film containing all 6.5 minutes of ‘SPACE FLiK‘, and transferred it to digital media. Watching it again for the first time in over 30 years brought back so many memories…

Initially, I’d intended to fully animate the whole thing, but quickly realised that would not be possible. Apart from the time that it would take, I couldn’t find (nor afford) animation cels. I made a few myself (out of shirt box lids and the like) but only enough for one scene. Even animating on paper presented its own problems (the pencil-mileage of redrawing backgrounds, or not having any backgrounds at all). After fiddling around, a hybrid technique developed; some scenes animated and shot on paper, some scenes done with cut-out animation (inspired by Terry Gilliam‘s book on the subject) and some animated scenes on paper, with individual poses cut out and temporarily glued to my few reuseable cells (or manipulated under camera on a homemade multiplane). It was not the ‘Illusion of Life‘, by any means, and barely even the illusion of the Illusion Of Life. It was NAFFimationโ„ข.

The drawing was fiddly but was something I loved to do, whereas the filming took me into unchartered waters of complexity and frustration. The only camera I’d ever owned was an Instamatic, and I knew nothing at all about exposure & focus, and had to learn by trial and error (heavy emphasis on the error) with a borrowed super-8 camera. In those pre-digital days, we were never sure what we’d shot on film till it came back from the processing lab, when I’d discover badly exposed sequences, weeks after shooting them. My town had no lab for super-8, so the film had to be sent away to be processed, and this iterative cycle of – shoot, wait, watch, scream, reshoot, wait, watch, scream, etc – took a lot of time. Time which ran out long before I was done. The borrowed camera had to be given back to the institution that owned it, and I had to simply remove failed scenes from the final print and submit it to my HSC art course.

Finally, after more than a year of drawing, and a few months of tinkering with borrowed camera and editing equipment, the premiere screening of all 6.5 minutes of ‘SPACE FLiK‘ was in the ‘good room‘ of the Baker family home in 1981 (on a borrowed super-8 projector) for an enthusiastic group of family and friends. The second screening was for examiners of my HSC. Hilariously, the third screening was at the Sydney Opera House in early 1982, at the National Youth Film Festival, where none other than Peter Weir was keynote speaker. My high school art teacher Ross Cochrane had heard about about this contest, and suggested I enter my film. I did, and it was accepted. By the time of the event, I already knew that I’d not won anything but was thrilled to attend and see all entries, including my own, screened in that famous building. I was very impressed with the quality of the other films shown, and some of the award winning young filmmakers went on to become prominent within the Australian film industry.

We contestants all received detailed critiques of our films written by the festival judges, who were film critics, film makers, or film lecturers at various universities. In my memory, the feedback was savage and I regret to say that I threw it away, but the truth is that all these critiques were absolutely right and I’d enjoy reading them now. At 17, I’d already understood the technical mistakes I’d made (bad timing, shoddy focus & exposure, etc) but the tragedy of expending a Herculean effort on a flimsy parody, rather than something original of my own, was only starting to dawn on me. Sadly, I became ashamed of this silly film. Although I’d intended to show SPACE FLiK to the animation studio in Sydney (Hanna-Barbera) where I’d hoped to work (and eventually did) my film was never screened again after the Opera House Ego-Massacre (besides, pro studios didn’t have super-8 projectors, and I didn’t either, so it wasn’t easy to show even if I’d wanted to).

However, all these many years later, it was wonderful to see this fun reminder of the eager young dork I was back then; a wide-eyed fan in a pre-internet small town with no resources and even less of a clue, but with enough raw enthusiasm to make a film anyway. When I discovered that the box containing the film spool also included all the original 1981 artwork, I began a fun project to restore mis-shot & deleted scenes, and add the simple soundtrack that I’d planned long ago, but didn’t then have the resources to do. A 53 year old professional learning Premiere-Pro simply to fiddle with his own teenage amateur work is self indulgent perhaps, but as the original project was a Star Wars parody, a Lucas-style revised “Special Edition” should also be fair game for the lampoon;

Ladies and gentlemen, I’ve been waiting 35 years, till the ‘technology was available‘ to complete my ‘original vision’. Without any further ado, please enjoy ‘SPACE FLiK: The Corrector’s cut‘.

106 thoughts on “SPACE FLiK: The Corrector’s Cut”

    • Ha ha! Thanks Dan. It was really an excuse to learn Premiere-Pro but it was a lot of fun to do. The HOLST music was a perfect fit and matched the length exactly (and surely must have inspired John Williams himself when doing the original soundtrack).

    • I had initially planned in 1981 to make a simple soundtrack of public domain music-hall or silent film piano music, but heard HOLST’s ‘The Planets” for 2 pianos a few years later. That had stuck in my mind, and I was lucky enough to recently find a perfect recording.

  1. Hallelujah! Always hoped I’d get to see an ‘enhanced’ version of this! 1981 was such a long time ago! lol
    Loved the silent movie soundtrack, especially coupled with the sound of the old projector!
    Thank you James Baker!

    • Thanks Peter! Yeah, it was very satisfying to do, and I’m so happy that you (who were actually at 1981 ground zero) like it too. I’d always thought some simple melodramatic piano was in order, but the projector sound was a recent idea, that hopefully implies the low tech shonky quality of the 1981 screenings.

    • I cant imagine how much work went into that back in the day! Just amazing and it was great to see it again! Thank you!
      PS… I just shared it for our reunion group from a few years ago! ๐Ÿ˜‰

    • It was a LOT of nerdy toil, and took many evenings & weekends from early 1980 and 1981. One ‘advantage’ of being a DORK was that I didn’t have the typical distractions of a high school social life.

  2. It’s so funny how your sense of humor and apparent love of vaudeville came through early! This is a true labor of LOVE and it shows! What amazes me is that you were able to figure it all out and complete a film, all drawn and animated! Congrats sweetie!

    • I knew that I’d not be able to do full sound, so I decided to embrace the silent movie idea from the start. In fact, the early shots were filmed in B/W, but I decided it was a shame NOT to at least have colour and redid those (except one; the shot of Death Star with the flyswatter). In PREMIERE there’s a way to do a separate copy in sepia. I might do that later.

  3. Congratulations, dear Boy. As joint host at the World Premiere at 139 Barney in 1981, I take immense pleasure from that memory itself, from seeing the work thus resurrected and (so tastefully) improved, and from your loyal respect for the incredible youthful effort that went into it so far back then. I fully concur with dear Julia’s assessment. It has certainly made Robbie’s day, and Wendy’s, who sends her love.
    As do I, Dad

    • Thanks so much Dad & Rob (both part of my original 1981 support team) and Wendy (a recent FLiK fan!) I got almost as much fun from this restoration project as I did from making the original, and as long as I keep this version away from HSC examiners and pro film critics my rosy glow looks to last well into the future.

      Thanks Dad too, for holding onto all my junk, including that box of drawings and spool of film. 1982-2008 it sat in your garage, until I finally took it off your hands.

    • Thanks Pete!
      But what you’re seeing here is a bit of a cheat; colour corrected, reframed, edited, with new soundtrack. The original 7 minutes of faded super-8 was REALLY hard to sit thru in complete SILENCE, and didn’t even make ‘sense’ in a few spots, due to deleted mis-shot scenes, but the tweaks bring it all together.

      My inner 16 year old can finally stand tall!

  4. James, when the Cartoon Art Musuem reopens, there is a permanent display of student projects like Pete Doctor’s CalArt film. They should include it as it is part of the creative process in that animation is a life long adventure.

  5. Wow, James. What memories that brings. I clearly remember you working on this in the room upstairs at school. Thought it was brilliant then, think it is brilliant now. Good on you for completing your vision. A talent I have been, and always will be a great admirer of. Hope you are well, James.

  6. So excellent! Really wonderful thing to have after all this time. Better than my CalArts films and with a lot less tuition. Should of been an award winner at Annecy! What a cauldrin of creativity 80’s Aus must have been!

  7. I’m deeply, completely astonished with the film itself and the fact that 17 yrs old you did this.
    I have just made sure that no one touches the box of my high school projects, they are sealed forever.

    The force is strong in this one for sureโ€ฆ

    • It was a mess until my recent restoration; many DARK scenes and quite a few had to be cut out because of bad focus. But the restoration makes a big difference!

  8. Brilliant James!

    Back then all would be animation film makers were struggling with shirt box lids and 8mm cameras, you sir had the audacity to take the piss right from the start with satire!
    This is the hallmark of a true cartoonist.

    Btw, I’ve been using Premier Pro also, a bit dense at first but now I love it.

    • Thanks Arthur! Yes, Premiere-Pro was a deep toolbox, and a bit intimidating at first (like Photoshop). I’m still unclear of all it can do, but plan to make a few more projects to learn it all (reviving old storyboard sequences, etc).

  9. Princess Leotard! HA ha haa Once again you have made my day. Those critics obviously never animated their own film – without cels – using a Super 8! You shoulda got a frikkin’ medal. And you packed a lot of great gags in there too.

    • Thanks Dale. I really enjoyed making it but ended up being kind of sheepish about it at the time. But looking back on it now, I’d done pretty well, for all my limitations. Tidying it up in Premiere-Pro was a lot of fun.

  10. I thought this was very charming, and the shot of Kenobi popping a wheelie in his wheelchair got a laugh out of me. Crude? Sure. But it has heart, and art is nothing without heart.

    • Back when I was in high school, I had started working on a parody of Aliens. I didn’t get very far in it, and chances are, I’ll never see those pages again. But, boy, would I love to revisit my work from the time.

    • Yeah. I had a lot of fun revisiting my teen opus. I tried to limit the fixes to what I’d remembered wanting to do at that time. Otherwise I could have tinkered forever!

    • Hey Jack! Didn’t really have many cels. Maybe about 15. I’d glue the cutout paper drawings on my few reused cels, and the cels became pretty thrashed over time. so the cels themselves have not survived. Still got a few drawings though.

  11. James I remember seeing some or maybe a lot of your draws in our individual “study” rooms on the top floor of the senior/science building. Peter Lawlor had a photo development lab down the other end.

    • YES! Tom Baker was still The Doctor when I started making Space Flik (shows how long ago it was!) And I tried to put in as many cameos to other fan faves as I could.

      I had a lot of fun restoring it, and to stop me from tinkering forever, I limited myself only to what I’d done artwork for but messed up filming in 1981. It was fun remembering that pre-computer/pre-internet era when we fans had no access to “how to” articles and tutorials, and simply had to figure it out. Made for some dodgy mistakes, but was a great way to learn. I never went to art school so this cheesy film was it!

      Thanks for reading, watching and commenting, Phil!

    • Ha ha! Well, what you see here is a VAST improvement over the original; about 12 mis-shot scenes restored (from original art) and many underexposed & badly framed shots colour corrected & cropped. Plus, without a soundtrack the original was pretty hard to sit through.

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